Hurling fever has taken hold of Galway as the county prepares to tackle Limerick in this Sunday's decider at Croke Park, when Micheál Donoghue's senior men travel to Dublin, looking to secure back-to-back titles for the first time since 1988.
The hunt for elusive tickets for Sunday's mouthwatering All-Ireland senior decider has intensified in the last few days with fans clamouring to be at what many expect to be the most exciting hurling final in years.
This year's All Ireland hurling showpiece has been brought forward to this Sunday to accommodate Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, but in spite of the earlier date fans' appetites remain unabated for the ultimate event of the hurling calendar.
More than 25,000 Galway fans are heading to Croke Park on Sunday, and as many again are expected to travel to Dublin the hope of finding a last-minute ticket, so the next challenge for many supporters is securing transport to get to the capital.
Managing director of Citylink, David Conway, says the company has increased the number of services to the capital to accommodate the huge demand. "On a normal day we would have 23 services going from Galway to Dublin. But with Galway participating in the All-Ireland final, we have increased that number by 10. That is an increase of 500 seats, and we fully expect these available spaces to be taken,” Mr Conway said. “We have also increased the number of services provided from Limerick to Dublin to cope with the demand.”
For those lucky enough to be in Dublin on Sunday it is advised to bring a raincoat as Met Éireann predicts it to be wet and humid in the morning and early afternoon. A spokesperson said; “It will be cloudy in the morning with some rain in the early afternoon. But it will dry out gradually as the afternoon progresses with some bright spells developing. Temperatures are expected to hit a high of 21 degrees Celsius.”
For those who will be staying in the city, the Galway City Business Association with the Galway City Council and local businesses have arranged for a big screen to be erected at the Meyrick Hotel end of Eyre Square on Sunday to cheer on both the minor and senior panels.
Galway City Mayor Níall McNelis said that the erection of a big screen was a “no brainer” after the success of last year’s broadcasting in Eyre Square. “[The screen] was a great success last year. The atmosphere in Eyre Square was electric as thousands turned up to cheer on Galway and watch the boys bring home Liam MacCarthy for the first time in 29 years. This year I believe it will be even better. It will be a great family event. There will be face painters and a DJ and more, so I urge everyone to get down early for a great day and we hope to turn Eyre Square maroon and white.”
Cllr McNelis said the event also was great for local businesses. “Having the screen in Galway encourages many people to come into the city centre which has a great knock-on effect for our local businesses. It is also great for our visitors to the city to experience the passion that local Galwegians have for Gaelic games and also their team, who have had a brilliant season.”
Organisers have advised patrons to get to the square early in order to gain a good vantage point, and to obey the direction of stewards. Should Liam MacCarthy come back across the Shannon to the west for the second time in as many years, Cllr McNelis has revealed there will be a homecoming.
“We have been in talks with the GAA about the potential of a homecoming celebration. It would be very similar to last year where the players were presented to the supporters in Pearse Stadium with the cup. However, we do not want to jinx it by talking about it so we will see what transpires on Sunday and hopefully it is a Galway win.”
For those lucky enough to be in Dublin on Sunday it is advised to bring a raincoat as Met Éireann predicts it to be wet and humid in the morning and early afternoon.
A spokesperson says it will be “cloudy in the morning with some rain in the early afternoon. But it will dry out gradually as the afternoon progresses with some bright spells developing. Temperatures are expected to hit a high of 21 degrees Celsius”.
Rain or sunshine, it will do little to dampen the spirits of Galway fans if their hurlers return across the Shannon with the prized Liam MacCarthy Cup.